CD53, a thymocyte selection marker whose induction requires a lower affinity TCR-MHC interaction than CD69, but is up-regulated with slower kinetics

Kirsten L. Puls, Kristin A. Hogquist, Nancy Reilly, Mark D. Wright

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The molecular mechanisms that govern the survival, maturation and export of thymocytes are the subject of intense study, and candidates for involvement in these processes might be identified by their differential expression during thymocyte selection. One such molecule is the tetraspanin CD53, which is not expressed on most CD4+CD8+ double-positive (DP) cells in the normal mouse. We have examined CD53 expression on DP from several class I- and class II-restricted TCR transgenic (Tg) mice, and have found a strong correlation between CD53 expression and positive selection. CD53 expression in DP was formally demonstrated to be dependent upon MHC recognition as evidenced by studying DP from MHC-deficient mice which totally lack expression of this molecule. This link between selection and CD53 expression was reminiscent of CD69, and indeed the majority of selected DP from normal mice that express CD53 also express CD69. We compared CD53 and CD69 induction in vitro using pre-selected thymocytes from TCR-Tg mice that were stimulated either with mAb against TCR or with antigen-presenting cells (APC) pulsed with peptides. The data shows that with either stimulus, CD69 is induced rapidly on the thymocyte surface with expression detected in as little as 2 h. CD53 induction is slower with maximal expression taking up to 20 h. We also stimulated pre-selected thymocytes from the OT-1 TCR-Tg strain with APC pulsed with peptides of varying affinities for the TCR. Here low-affinity peptides which induce CD69 expression poorly were able to induce significant levels of CD53 expression. These data demonstrate that the induction of CD53 and CD69 upon selection is not identical. Thus a combination of the CD69 and CD53 selection markers may be a powerful tool to isolate thymocytes that have either been very recently selected or have arisen from differing MHC-TCR affinity interactions during selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-258
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Immunology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell surface molecules
  • FACS
  • Thymus

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